RENTON — This time, maybe the Titanic will avoid the iceberg and make a safe journey.
That’s the feeling at the VMAC, anyway, where a year after the Seahawks were portrayed in a Sports Illustrated article as a sinking ship that veteran players couldn’t wait to jump off, they begin a new season with a sense of optimism that only seems to grow by the day.
Seattle is a 9½-point favorite against the visiting Bengals on Sunday at CenturyLink Field, and has seen its Super Bowl odds consistently drop throughout the offseason, from as high as 35-1 in March to 20-1 as of the end of this week, via VegasInsider.com.
And in the year since the SI article was published (which was officially Sept. 7, 2018), the Seahawks have:
• Won 10 games and returned to the playoffs;
• Re-established themselves as a team leading with a punishing running game and an opportunistic defense, which has always been at the heart of Pete Carroll’s philosophy;
• Re-signed Carroll, Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, all through at least the 2021 season, settling any question about the immediate futures of their three most-important on-field personnel (not to mention having also stabilized their ownership group in the wake of the death of Paul Allen last October);
• Been hailed by just about every NFL observer for pulling off one of the coups of the offseason, last Saturday’s trade for Jadeveon Clowney, giving in return a third-round pick and two players who projected to be backup/rotational players, with one, Barkevious Mingo, thought likely to be cut;
• Assembled a roster that appears capable of again winning 10 or more games but also is the fourth-youngest in the NFL as of last weekend while also keeping a ton of salary-cap flexibility in the future. Seattle has the fifth-most cap space in 2020, according to OvertheCap.com, $65.5 million;
• And done all this by not only not sacrificing future draft capital but enhancing it — they have a first- and two second-round picks next season as well as being projected to get four extra compensatory draft picks for free agents lost.
The Clowney trade might have been most telling in illustrating the shift in perception over the last year.
The SI story noted that “One Seahawk felt it necessary to tell Duane Brown, the left tackle Seattle traded for last season and signed to an extension this spring, ‘It’s not usually like this.’ ’’
Now, a year later, it’s Brown portrayed as having helped seal the Clowney deal by selling Clowney on how great it is to play in Seattle.
“I said, ‘It’s a brotherhood,’ ’’ Brown said this week of what he told Clowney, echoing the same phrase that was the team’s mantra during the LOB days. “Guys play extremely hard for each other. When I got here, the first year, we were in a lot of games that came down to two minutes and there was never any doubt in anyone’s mind that we wouldn’t come back. That kind of feeling isn’t felt everywhere. Sometimes you can get down a couple touchdowns and guys will just kind of go through the motions. Here, it’s a competitive atmosphere and a lot of fun being had. You work hard, we work extremely hard, but we have fun doing it.’’
You don’t need Leonardo DiCaprio to draw a potentially winning picture out of all of that.
Not that there aren’t concerns:
Can the receiving corps make up for the loss of Doug Baldwin? From this vantage point, the receiving position remains a question mark.
Can Tyler Lockett thrive as a number one receiver (not saying he can’t, just that he has to prove it)? And can Jaron Brown and DK Metcalf become suitable complements quickly as David Moore recovers from injury?
Can a veteran offensive line remain healthy and play as well as it did a year ago?
Will Clowney and Ziggy Ansah get integrated into things quickly (and stay healthy) to become the pass-rush threat Seattle will need as soon as possible with Ben Roethlisberger looming in week two and Drew Brees in week three?
And can the young secondary — especially cornerbacks Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers and free safety Tedric Thompson — take a much-needed next step in year two together as starters, with not only Roethlisberger and Brees ahead but also the Rams twice, Matt Ryan and the Falcons, Carson Wentz and the Eagles and Cam Newton and the Panthers?
Coach Pete Carroll, though, could hardly have sounded more “jacked’’ or “lit up,’’ to use two of his favorite expressions, about the way this team has come together.
“I’ve been flying,’’ Carroll said Wednesday. “I’ve been flying. In all aspects of what we’re doing, it’s just been a blast. I’m really, really pumped about getting going. I know maybe I’ve said that up here before, but I feel like this is like the first time around and I can’t wait to get started.”
Not that there won’t be some squeamish moments along the way.
And whether the journey can really end in Miami -— site of Super Bowl 54 — will require a lot of things going right. This team unquestionably has much more room for growth and fewer margin for error than the 2013 and 2014 squads (and probably the 2012 and 2015 teams, as well).
But that Super Bowl and Seahawks can again be easily used in the same sentence illustrates that maybe things were never really all that far off course.